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Self-care, me time, rest, rejuvenation are all things most riders should be applying. How realistic is this in the equestrian world? Is prioritising our own health and wellbeing an achievable goal; reserved for people far less busy than ourselves? In short ‘no’. However, there is a bravado ethos amongst riders that we need to change. Self-care, me time, rest, rejuvenation are all things most riders should be applying. How realistic is this in the equestrian world? Is prioritising our own health and wellbeing an achievable goal; reserved for people far less busy than ourselves? In short ‘no’. However, there is a bravado ethos amongst riders that we need to change. 

Riding with plaster casts still in place. Ignoring medical advice on our own injuries, whilst meticulously following vet advice for our horses. Spending our hard earned cash on new kit and entry fees but scoffing at the notion of a spa day or a physio session to help us stay fit and healthy. Sound familiar? It is a difficult mind set to change, but we are all at risk of burning out, getting injured and getting depressed.

We know from extensive research into sports performance that sleep, nutrition and hydration are the foundations of successful athletes. It does not matter how effective a sprinter’s foot placement is on the track, how quick their block start might be; when studies have shown that just an hour less sleep a night causes a significant drop in mental function, reaction time and performance in sporting events; but It is these key areas that are so commonly neglected by society in general and equestrians in particular.
Common complaints including; headaches, dry skin, fatigue, brain fog and dizziness can all be symptoms of dehydration (NHS England). Yet it is estimated that only 6% of the UK population drink the recommended 2 litres of water every day - which when you consider the human brain is 73% water it is no surprise that three quarters of us suffer from headaches on a regular basis (World Health Organisation).

You only need to cast an eye at the catering options of your typical ODE or riding club show to gain insight into the equestrian lifestyle diet.  Convenience carbs and easy access sugars that can be in (and out of) our bloodstreams in a matter of minutes, these calorie dense foods are nutritionally poor, meaning our bodies are crying out for further sustenance despite our jodhpurs feeling distinctly tight by the end of the season. Nutrient deficiencies leave us tired, prone to illness and lacking in energy – not the ideal partner to our equine athletes.

So how do we change our ways? Isn’t it just all a bit self-indulgent to be prioritising ourselves when there is just so much to do? The analogy that best describes it is the in flight emergency; adults are advised to put on their own oxygen masks before helping their children in emergency situations. A statement that totally defies parental instinct to protect your child. But the reasoning is clear; if you’re unconscious your child is alone and totally helpless. Self-care is the same concept, our children, partners, families and horses will all suffer if we aren’t able to carry on. Self-care is putting on your own oxygen mask. 
We are not talking a full life overhaul here; of course resigning from your job, going vegan and practising yoga for 8 hours a day will likely improve your zest for life, but it is not always practical for most. Self-care is as simple as turning the TV off and sitting quietly for 10 minutes, it’s a hot bath after a long day or a quick walk at lunchtime to shake off those restless legs. Everyone is busy, but I am yet to meet a client who really wanted to change, who couldn’t find the time to put my advice into practice. 

So here it is: the highly sought after advice that will help you feel happier, ride better and value your relationship with you horse that little bit more.

Drink a glass of water every 1.5 hours.
Go to bed an hour earlier.
Cook with ingredients.

Told you it was ground breaking. By making these positive additions (notice we haven’t stopped doing anything or taken anything away from your life) you will shift the balance back towards your own health. Commit to this advice for 12 weeks and you WILL feel better. Your energy will improve and your motivation will be greater. A well-rested, less stressed, fitter rider is always going to benefit their horse, both from a performance and a welfare point of view.

Epona Physiotherapy is an equestrian specialist service based in Northamptonshire, run by Chartered Physiotherapist Meg Blundell. Epona offers performance management and injury rehab programmes for both horse and rider as well as clinical rider fitness classes. Meg is passionate about improving rider fitness for the benefit of the horse and the sport; she speaks regularly on this topic at public events and for private groups.
www.eponaphysio.co.uk